TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS UPDATE 

lCADILLAC HAS SUCCESSFUL SURGERY... AND LONG ROAD BACK

Carnell Williams had successful surgery Tuesday performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. He is staying at the home of his mother, near Attalla, Ala., for the next two weeks and was on his feet Wednesday.

But as St. Petersburg Times staff writer Rick Stroud noted Thursday, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2005 faces a long and painful rehabilitation from an injury that has ended some NFL careers and reduced others dramatically.

"As soon as they said it was the patellar tendon, we all knew it would be a long road back," Bucs pro personnel executive Doug Williams said. "With the nature of this injury, you're talking about a long rehab.

"I think it more or less depends on the next six months. You're talking another year at this time before he's able to run around. I would think the chances of him coming to training camp next year are pretty slim."

According to Stroud, when the tendon ruptures, the patella -- or kneecap -- rolls up like a window shade to the thigh and a patient is unable to straighten his leg without surgery. A large incision is made in the front of the knee and the site of the rupture is identified. The tendon ends are sewn together and a cast or brace protects the repair, usually for a minimum of six weeks.

"The first part of rehab is geared toward healing," said Dr. Michael J. Hulstyn, assistant professor of sports medicine at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "Then you slowly progress to improving the range of motion, restoring the basic strength and eventually speed and motion.

"If it's repaired well and rehabbed properly, he may be back doing the things he used to do sometime next year. But if it doesn't heal well, some people have had problems."

Stroud went on to remind readers that Bucs and Raiders running back Charlie Garner tore his patellar tendon in 2004 and it ended his career. Running back Dwayne Wright missed nearly two years at Fresno State but last season rushed for 1,462 yards, 11 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards a carry before being drafted in the fourth round by the Bills.

The Bucs will re-evaluate the Cadillac before the draft in April to determine whether they want to spend a high choice on a feature running back.

Like most in the organization, head coach Jon Gruden is looking at the glass half full.

"Everybody's talking about that. I think anytime you have a serious injury there are going to be people who question how serious it was and if you can come back from it," Gruden said. "Carnell's going to come back from this. He had surgery ... and it was a success. Now it's a matter of the injury healing properly and then beginning what will be a grueling rehab procedure.

"Knowing him, he'll be back at full strength and ready to roll here before long. ..."

While Gruden's positive outlook is understandable, make no mistake about it; Williams' future in the NFL is far from guaranteed. ...

Also of interest. ... Unless the NFL tells him differently, tight end Jerramy Stevens plans to sharpen his focus on football and start contributing more to Tampa Bay victories.

Stevens is appealing Tuesday's sentence of 30 days in jail and a $3,160 fine for a drunk-driving conviction last month in Arizona. He faces the possibility of disciplinary action by the league for violating the NFL's player-conduct policy.

"I don't have a clue what's going to happen with the NFL," said Stevens, who played sparingly in the first four games and is still looking for his first regular-season catch as a Buccaneer. "Whatever they hand down, I'll deal with it. With a new commissioner, I don't know what's going to happen."


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